Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. With his wife Holly, Greg co-owns two websites – Club Thrifty and Travel Blue Book. The couple has also co-authored a book, Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You'll Love. Find him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @ClubThrifty.


Question: You mention receiving $200k of passive income a year, but your chart shows half of that coming from real estate holdings, and reading between the lines it appears that you hold mortgages against those holdings. Then you conclude that $200k/yr of passive income should be enough to live comfortably anywhere in the world. So are you subtracting your real estate expenses (taxes, insurance, mortgage payments, maintenance, remote property management company fees, etc.) when you report your passive income from those properties? Really I think it’s the net (after taxes and everything) that tells us what is left over to “spend” on living, right? When I set up my spreadsheet to retire early at age 47, I calculated the after-tax income I would need to live. Then I compared that to my income streams (estimating tax on the taxable income streams) to measure the surplus/shortfall. Also some good advice from GoCurryCracker: If you can minimize your taxes so you’re in the 15% tax bracket, you can possibly receive tax-free long term capital gains. I agree with your philosophy that time is more important than money as we age. I am not sure I agree with a philosophy that is fixated on needing such a large income, and would rather minimize taxes if it’s all the same on the happiness meter. Furthermore, having 20 plus income sources in the name of diversification adds stress and requires more management (TIME!). I think this is fine for those of us while young, as we have the energy to work hard. But as time becomes more important, the extra headache of managing, planning, and buying/selling our assets becomes a resented hindrance on par with the resentment we felt when working for an employer and fighting traffic each day to go to a job we hated. Every thing we own in actuality owns us, by virtue of its demands on our time and affections, and that includes investments. It also includes our home, and is a good reason for downsizing. As long as we have food on our table, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our bodies, what more do we need? I think we need to consider freeing ourselves from the weight of the chains of managing too many ventures. Personally, I plan on investing in no more than 5 simultaneous ventures ever, with the exception of some IRAs that I just plan to let sit for the next 20 years (and therefore no thought or anxiety required).
What I like about p2p investing on Lending Club is the website’s automated investing tool. You pick the criteria for loans in which you want to invest and the program does the rest. It will look for loans every day that meet those factors and automatically invest your money. It’s important because you’re collecting money on your loan investments every day so you want that money reinvested as soon as possible.
Takes advantage of other resources. The most creative viral marketing plans use other resources to get the word out. Affiliate programs, for example, place text or graphic links on other websites. Authors who give away free articles, seek to position their articles on other web pages. A news release can be picked up by hundreds of periodicals and form the basis of articles seen by hundreds of thousands of readers. Now someone else’s newsprint or web page is relaying your marketing message. Someone else’s resources are depleted rather than your own.
There is a specific tax definition of passive income, known as “passive activity” to the Internal Revenue Service. Passive income is any income you make without actively working or are materially involved. The IRS defines it as any rental activity or any business in which the taxpayer does not “materially participate.” Nonpassive activities, or active activities, are businesses in which the taxpayer works on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis.
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My favorite type of semi-passive income was rental property because it was a tangible asset that provided reliable income. As I grew older, my interest in rental property waned because I no longer had the patience and time to deal with maintenance issues and tenants. Online real estate became more attractive, along with tax-free municipal-bond income once rates started to rise.

What I’m doing: I use this site to write out goals like 1) Generating $200,000 a year working 4 hours a day or less, 2) Trying to make winning investments, and 3) Keeping track of my passive income streams with free financial tools. My site and the community helps keep me accountable for progress. It’s important I do what I say, otherwise, what the hell is the point? You should consider starting a site or at least a private journal. Write out your specific goals, tell several close friends and stick to the plan.
Reference price is also known as competitive pricing, because here the product is sold just below the price of a competitor’s product. Reference price is the cost at which a manufacturer or a store owner sells a particular product, giving a hefty discount compared to its previously advertised price. Description: Reference pricing, in simple terms, is known as that price which users compare with
Let’s say that you sell motorcycle parts. You may find that your customers like videos showing motorcycles in action on Instagram and Facebook, part review videos on YouTube, articles about the latest technology on Twitter, and GIFs made from your Instagram and Facebook videos for Imgur and Reddit.  In short, you’ll need to make some videos to get your products embedded into viral content.

Exploits common motivations and behaviors. Clever viral marketing plans take advantage of common human motivations. What proliferated “Netscape Now” buttons in the early days of the web? The desire to be cool. Greed drives people. So does the hunger to be popular, loved, and understood. The resulting urge to communicate produces millions of websites and billions of email messages. Design a marketing strategy that builds on common motivations and behaviors for its transmission, and you have a winner.


I wanted to specifically call out one particular strategy within equity investing that bears mentioning – dividend growth investing is when you focus on stocks that not only pay a dividend but have a history of strong dividend growth. When I was first building my portfolio of individual stocks, I focused on buying companies with a history of dividends, a history of strong growth, and financials that supported a continuation of both.
Good suggestions. I have many of these. One word about the “app” idea. I had a great idea related to personal taxes that I tried to get off the ground with my accountant as a partner. I would say it’s difficult to do this unless you have a coder on your team. Hiring someone is not really viable financially unless the app is simple. When we finally got the quote for a coder to write what we wanted (and after doing lots of mock ups ourselves and getting a demo for investors) the estimate was about 750k just to really get started.

Love your articles. I think everyone is very different as far as how much passive income they need to meet their goals. I’ve read a lot of your articles and really enjoy your thoughts. I have a masters in finance and understand the math of keeping the debt but my emotions are such that I need to try to finish off paying off my last debt (mortgage) in the next two years. At 34 and only worth 525k I’m doing better than a lot of folks my age but it will be difficult for me to catch up in the passive income game without leverage. That is the main reason I recently created a website to try to bring passive income opportunities in my area to me.
If you have a blog or some other property that has visitors, you might profit passively via affiliate advertising. For example, imagine that you write a blog about movies. You might review some books about movies, and then link to them on Amazon so you get a cut of the purchase price when anyone buys books through the links. If you blog about hiking, you might promote some hiking gear you recommend on the blog, again generating passive income if anyone buys any of it.
If you were Prismacolor, you would promote this GIF because the more viral it becomes, the more chances it has of reaching an artist who may be interested in buying colored pencils for themselves or as a gift. And the more likely that artist is to choose Prismacolor if the viral image of their pencils inspired them to make the purchase. As the vendor, Prismacolor wants to increase sales of their products from all vendors.
Did any of these ideas interest you in building passive income? Want a clearer picture of how different income streams might fit into your overall wealth-building strategy? If so, connect with a financial professional through our SmartVestor program and create a game plan to start building wealth that lasts. A financial pro will look at all your income streams and help you develop a financial plan that meets your individual needs. Find a SmartVestor Pro today!
Messenger: Three specific types of messengers are required to ensure the transformation of an ordinary message into a viral one: market mavens, social hubs, and salespeople. Market mavens are individuals who are continuously 'on the pulse' of things (information specialists); they are usually among the first to get exposed to the message and who transmit it to their immediate social network. Social hubs are people with an exceptionally large number of social connections; they often know hundreds of different people and have the ability to serve as connectors or bridges between different subcultures. Salespeople might be needed who receive the message from the market maven, amplify it by making it more relevant and persuasive, and then transmit it to the social hub for further distribution. Market mavens may not be particularly convincing in transmitting the information.
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